[This sermon will mainly interest the Catholic residents of Henry and Franklin counties, Virginia. I offer it here for anyone interested in “the spirituality of parish clustering.”]
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
We all know what they say about death and taxes. Sure things. But Christ has revealed that the death of our bodies will not last forever. When He comes again in glory, all the dead will rise from the grave. And we won’t have to pay taxes then, either. The federal government will be shut down forever.
In other words, everything about life as we now know it will pass away, and eternity awaits. This of course changes our whole perspective. The things we deal with now are not the ultimate reality. We have no lasting city here, just a way-station.
This gives the Church her most notable characteristic: Because we live by faith in the life to come, our life now is primarily a hidden life. St. Paul tells us: “Your life is hidden in Christ with God.” Our faith in Christ’s resurrection is like a seed buried in the soil of our souls, ready to sprout when the eternal springtime comes.
Our hidden, interior life of faith relies totally on the teaching authority of the Church. The Lord Jesus made His Church the teacher of the great mystery of eternal life.
From one point-of-view, the Church has all the foibles of any human institution. It is an organization of sinners like every other, just like the federal government is. We Catholics don’t deny this fact; it does not put our faith in question. Rather, we accept the human side of the Church; we do our best to live with it; and we work on reducing the impact of our own individual foibles.
But when we look at the Church from another point-of-view, we see something altogether unique. When we consider the miracle of the Gospel and the sacraments reaching us over enormous expanses of space and time, we rejoice, and we revere the Church because She alone has the words of eternal life.
Let me say a few words about what this means for us personally, here and now. As I hope you know, this coming week the diocese will begin the “clustering process” for St. Joseph and Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount. We pray that the process will result in a good and fair arrangement.
You folks here in Martinsville and I have this in common: we have never gone through this before. The people of Francis of Assisi have; it has been years since they had their own priest. I wish I could tell you that our brothers and sisters up in Rocky Mount smile and preen when they hear the phrase ‘parish cluster.’ But they do not. The Church has her sublime side, and her federal-government side.
Speaking now just for myself: At some point in the next couple months, I will receive instructions from the powers-that-be of the Richmond Diocese. These instructions will tell me where and when I am to say Mass, where and when I am to sleep, where and when I am to drive up and down US 220, where my gas money will come from, etc.
In this Church where we find the words of eternal life, sometimes we get to call the shots, and sometimes we don’t. But we can be sure that if we put our best foot forward, the Lord will provide everything we need.